Climate protesters clash with police in Paris
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Police in Paris fired teargas Sunday in clashes with climate change activists who pelted them with objects during a demonstration ahead of the COP21 climate talks in the French capital.
About two hundred protesters, some wearing masks, fought with police on a street leading to the Place de la République, which has become a gathering place for Parisians since the terror attacks in the capital that killed 130 people earlier this month.
Protesters could be heard chanting "State of emergency, police state", referring to measures restricting demonstrations that were introduced in the wake of the attacks.
Police fired gas at some demonstrators as they tried to reach the square and used tear gas to disperse others. Demonstrators, carrying banners calling for the defence of the climate and democracy, reportedly threw glass bottles and even candles left as tributes to the Paris attack victims at police.
Reporting from the Place de la République, FRANCE 24’s Ben Barnier said there was an “ongoing standoff” taking place between the police and protesters.
“I saw [the protesters] firing flares, throwing whatever they could find at police and I saw police throwing tear gas canisters in order to try and push the protesters away from the Place de la République,” he said.
“We spoke with several angry protesters who told me they wanted to destroy society altogether, they wanted to get their message across and this is what they are trying to do now.”
Hollande condemns ‘scandalous’ clashes
Paris's police prefecture said Monday morning that 317 people had been detained in connection with the clashes, of which 178 had been charged according to France’s Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve
Speaking from an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, French President François Hollande condemned the actions of the activists involved.
"These disruptive elements have nothing to do with defenders of the environment," he said.
"It is doubly regrettable, even scandalous that this happened at the Place de la République where flowers and candles have been left in memory of those who were killed by the terrorists' bullets.”
The climate pressure group 350.org distanced itself from the illegal protest, saying that the demonstrators had violated the "nonviolent pledge that every group involved in the climate coalition" agreed to.
The statement expressed hope that France would not clamp down further on freedoms during the conference following the incident.
A march planned for Sunday in Paris ahead of the UN climate change summit taking place at Le Bourget outside the capital was banned by police under the state of emergency rules imposed after the November 13 attacks, which were claimed by Islamic State group militants.
Police also put 24 green activists under house arrest ahead of the summit saying they were suspected of planning violent protests.
Instead of marching, activists had earlier Sunday covered the Place de la République with thousands of shoes – including a pair of trainers left by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Around 4,500 demonstrators also formed a human chain through the city, passing near the Bataclan concert hall where 90 people were killed in the terror attacks.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)